By Dominic O’Brien
release of Paul W.S Anderson’s fourth sequel to the Resident Evil film
franchise (available on DVD and Blu-ray NOW) Dominic O’Brien looks at the
series so far.
From its days as a lauded survival horror gaming
experience, Shinji Mikami’s Resident
Evil (or Bio Hazard as it is called
in Japan) always contained the fundamental basics to be a terrifying horror
film. Everything from the creaking door cut-scenes, through to the original’s
dark mansion setting was a perfected nightmare for horror fans.
After a troubled development that saw zombie maestro George R Romero being kicked off the
project (due to his gory vision), the first feature was finally released in the
summer of 2002. Directed by British B-Movie director Paul Anderson (the W.S was
to come later), the story deviated drastically from the original games by
introducing a new protagonist, Alice.
It was clear that fans of the gaming series found it
to be anything but a faithful Resident Evil adaptation. Gone were the main
characters, Chis Redfield and Jill Valentine, although structurally it was very
similar to a game, with characters progressing to different levels of the
mansion complex and defeating monsters in boss battles.
While many fans felt that the film didn’t capture the
tension and atmosphere of the gameworld, the film has since gone on to be
something of a guilty pleasure movie and although it’s far from perfect, the
first Resident Evil does contain many enjoyable moments. The laser room
sequence (punctuated by Marilyn Manson’s
ear splitting score) is a gory treat and one that would later be included into
the game series itself. While the zombie dog showdown and the underground train
finale are rousing moments that give a knowing wink to gamers.
Resident Evil was also one of the first zombie films
to be released since Romero’s own Day Of
The Dead in 1985. For that
alone it deserves some kudos as it paved the way for zombies to shuffle into
the new millennium.
A sequel, Resident
Evil: Apocalypse, appeared in 2004, continuing the adventures of Alice (in
zombieland). With this sequel, Anderson stepped down as director and turned the
reins over to Alexander Witt. This
time around, the fans’ pleas for a more game-like film experience were listened
to, along with the inclusion of narrative elements from the third game. There
were also a lot more zombies and genetically engineered creatures, within a
setting that gamers were more familiar with (in this case the infamous Raccoon
City from the game).
2004 also saw Capcom
release the critically acclaimed Resident
Evil 4, but something was decidedly different about this new game. Resident
Evil 4 was a more action-orientated experience, compared to the previous
survival horror games. Gone were the zombies and creaking doors, and what fans
got was much closer to the look and feel of the films.
While the games became more and more filmic, the
films continued to plough their own path. In fact, Resident Evil: Extinction, Resident Evil: Afterlife and Resident Evil: Retribution have seen an
even more significant departure from the films’ roots to the point where we now
have two separate but linked Resident Evil worlds – the games and the films.
For the franchise, it’s been a profitable template.
So profitable that more and more video game adaptations began to hit the market
hot on Resident Evil’s heels. Games like Hitman,
Silent Hill (a rare diamond in the rough), Doom and Dead Or Alive
to name just a few. Oddly, although the film community at large continues to
despise such adaptations, the ‘trend’ for live action films based on games is
stronger than ever and looks set to continue like the slobbering undead beast
it is. Fingers crossed that the future brings brighter adaptations for gamers
and film fans alike.
Evil: Retribution is out now on Blu-ray and DVD on 28th January.